Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Wu, Kevin D.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Scrupulosity is an understudied symptom dimension of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) that involves moral- and religious-based obsessions and compulsions. There are several different underlying cognitive beliefs that have been shown to be related to the development and maintenance of OCD, but one—moral thought-action fusion (TAF-moral)—has been highly associated with scrupulosity. TAF-moral is the belief that thoughts are morally equivalent to actions, including thoughts that are intrusive in nature. It has been found that individuals from different religious traditions display different levels of TAF-moral and display different strengths of association between TAF-moral and religiosity. However, these differences have not been examined experimentally and thus causality has not been determined. Since a highly punishing concept of God is closely associated with scrupulosity, the purpose of this study was to examine causal links between religion and TAF-moral by testing two opposing God concepts (punishing or forgiving) as a cause of heightened TAF-moral in certain religious traditions.

Ninety-nine participants met inclusion criteria for the study. Participants were randomly assigned to be primed with either a forgiving-God (FG) or punishing-God (PG) concept before completing a negative thought induction task paradigm meant to induce TAF-moral. It was found that there were no significant differences between priming conditions on perceived moral wrongness scores, and the frequency of neutralizing behavior did not depend on condition. Both groups were significantly more anxious following the negative thought induction compared to immediately prior to it, and the groups showed marginally significant differences on anxiety; the PG group displayed higher overall anxiety compared to the FG group. However, there was no interaction between time and condition on anxiety scores. Whereas the results showed only mixed support for the hypotheses in terms of reaching a priori statistical significance levels, it is important to note that all findings were in the expected direction. Limitations include the inclusion of participants with extreme baseline God concepts, a low dose for priming God concepts, the use of manipulation check questions that did not allow for excluding participants who were not adequately primed, and difficulties with coding neutralizing behavior.


77 pages




Northern Illinois University

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